I reposted links to my blog piece on “The Nearly Invisible Bisexual Male” on Facebook (and Twitter) for National Coming Out Day. Which led to the following exchange in the Facebook comment section which I think may serve as a querysome, quarrelsome footnote or addendum or just simply some food for thought on the question of invisi-BI-lity and its discontents and privileges:
(Oh, for sake of context, it might help to know that “P” is a 50something gay male, but this post it not really about him, but about the questions and concerns I felt and needed to express, for which his comments were a catalyst.)
P: I think their invisibility is what is irritating though – they can live perfectly happy lives in a heterosexual relationship without being constantly othered.
Me: And do you direct the same amount of irritation towards bisexuals in homosexual relationships who don’t claim their bisexuality in order to not have to put up with biphobic nonsense from the Gay community?
This kind of invisibility privilege does go both ways. And does one first and foremost get irritated at the bisexual individual or at the society – straight and queer society – that resorts to a monosexual default? How about being irritated at those (or the society) that would “constantly other” anybody rather than at those who would need to announce their bisexuality at a daily basis in order to not have it be invisible by default.
Mind you, I dearly wish there were more like Anna Paquin (who while married to a man went public with her bisexuality), but she is also helped by being famous. One big announcement takes care of it for life. Not quite so easy for a regular bi-Joe. Yet the import of your statement – showing more irritation at the bisexual for being invisible rather than at the circumstances that make him invisible – only contributes to why so many bisexuals feel there is little support for them out there from all sides of society.
P: I take people as I find them. I find most bisexual males at least are in opposite-gender relationships.
Me: But do you know they are bisexual because they told you? Are they open today about being bisexual? Or are you referring to bisexual males who are keeping their bisexuality secret while in a heterosexual relationship, a problem that cuts both ways.
I know a lot of gay identified males with meaningful bisexual histories who minimize or even erase that side of their lives. I think a bisexual male who is open about it should feel welcomed no matter who he is dating. The truth though is, and I sense it from the tenor of your comments too, is that a bisexual male in a heterosexual relationship will catch more grief than support from being out than an out bisexual male in a gay relationship, incl. from the gay community. Or even esp. from the gay community.
And even so, I am in a gay relationship but nonetheless have received precious little support let alone applause from my generation and older, straight or gay, for being bisexual. Only extra layers of dismay, distrust, skepticism, ignorance.